WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL

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In Winchester I looked in at the Cathedral, which, in the bicentenary of Ruskin’s birth, made me think of The Nature of Gothic.

Ruskin said that Gothic ornament was made by uneducated men who were allowed to do the best they could without direction, and because it was the expression of free labour it was bound to be rough and imperfect. The 19th century demanded perfection and accuracy and made workmen into slaves because that could only be achieved if they were told exactly what to do and weren’t allowed to be inventive.

I couldn’t see how this applied to Winchester. The stone carving is accurate and regular and the workmen were not free to work as they pleased and to invent as they worked.

Ruskin’s dislike of factories was understandable in the conditions of the mid-19th century, but he mythologised pre-industrial work and created false antinomies between supposedly rough pre-industrial workmanship and smooth modern workmanship

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